In Prospect Park Brooklyn on a beautiful summer morning at the viewing platform by the Binnen Falls opposite the Audubon Center Boathouse, not far from where Tropfest New York award winner for Best Actor, Eve Danzeisen, accepted her award from host Liev Schreiber, she and I had a conversation on the making of her film The Hardest Part and the role Boo Radley plays. This year's judges were Lake Bell, Malcolm Gladwell, Fisher Stevens, Charles Randolph, and Leonard Lopate.
Eve Danzeisen on the Tropfest New York "black carpet". Photo by Anne-Katrin Titze. Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
Anne-Katrin Titze: I think the scene with the gynecologist from hell in your film The Hardest Part strikes a chord with many people.
Eve Danzeisen: Yes, I thought, when do you see this scene in a movie? I would like to do something from the point of view of different patients. [Tropfest] was a very inspiring experience. Because there was a deadline, it forced me to do something that I've never done before. I did this with a crew of two people. I had a DP and a sound person. Some of the stuff we did - if you had money you would have done with ten different people
AKT: You said it all happened in three weeks?
ED: Let me think. The deadline was [May] 16th. I finished writing it on the third, then we shot on the eighth and the ninth. Then I edited with the editor [David Landon] from the 10th through the 15th, 8:00am to 4:00pm.
AKT: And then you submitted it?
ED: And then I submitted it and then you just wait. I remember I was at a commercial audition for Jif and they give you these baby peanut butters as a parting gift for your commercial audition. So I was in the car and I had a message and it was "you are being highly considered - I just need a few more questions". At the end of the conversation she told me that I was a finalist. So I ate the entire thing of peanut butter, I was so excited. Then I thought, what am I doing? I am sitting in my car eating peanut butter and you weren't supposed to tell anyone…There was a date when they would announce it publicly. It was very hard for me to contain it, but I did.
Eve Danzeisen and Anne-Katrin Titze at Prospect Park's Boathouse. Photo by Ed Bahlman. Photo: Ed Bahlman
AKT: Tell me about your casting, especially the "brown-eyed character" who only wants to go out and eat.
ED: That's Boo Radley [from Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird played by Robert Duvall in Robert Mulligan's film], my Schnauzer. He is almost 15.
AKT: He is adorable. You knew you had to have him star in your movie?
ED: I did want him to be in the movie. Thematically the idea was, sort of, the cold medical relationship to the relationship with an animal - I am a huge animal lover - to the relationship with one other human being and then to a connection with a community, which is the idea of the yoga class at the end. That's what gets you through everything.
AKT: And this explains the two bridges which was this year's theme of Tropfest New York?
ED: I did the physical yoga pose bridge in the doctor's office. I wanted this to be a sort of awful-kind-of-bridge pose. To like in the end, reclaiming the bridge pose and taking it into the wheel. I really did try to incorporate the theme.
AKT: You wrote a gynecologist from hell?
ED: He is so good, isn't he? He is very funny.
AKT: He is good. He is an actor, not a gynecologist, I hope?
ED: He is an actor [Brian N. Taylor].
AKT: I'm glad to hear that. Is he inspired by personal experience?
Eve Danzeisen and Anne-Katrin Titze in conversation on The Hardest Part in Brooklyn's Prospect Park. Photo by Ed Bahlman. Photo: Ed Bahlman
ED: Yes, and from other ones that I heard people having. It's all in an effort to make you feel comfortable that's just wildly inappropriate. Bedside manner is like a lost cause. He said he showed it to his gynecologist friend who was appalled.
AKT: What does he say to your character right before she leaves?
ED: He says "No tears - I'll see you outside."
AKT: Complimenting her on her insides and making a joke about what he would do if he had a knife are really pushing it. Talk about your editing - seven minutes in four parts?
ED: Yes. because I had seven minutes. It first was ten minutes. The scene with the girlfriend over dinner had a slightly different feel to it. First the idea was that my character who was in a difficult place saw someone else in a difficult place and it helped her forget her pain. It really took you out of the story. Honestly, this scene could be edited out and another could go in - just seeing me getting medicine, getting better.
AKT: The audience doesn't know if what we are seeing is the truth. The bikini wax did it? It has a mystery to it. We don't know who the woman is. A friend, because they have two bottles of wine on the table?
ED: Oh, my gosh, I looked at that later. We have two different bottles of wine. Originally there were lines in there - do you want red or white? I just wanted her there as a very good friend. I learned so much doing this.
AKT: This is your first attempt at making a film?
ED: First ever, not as an actor, I mean.
AKT: Now you won the Tropfest prize for acting in your own film. What direction are you more interested in now, acting or directing?
ED: I want to do both. I have three ideas of what I would like to do.
AKT: Is one of them the long version of "The Hardest Part?"
ED: Yes, and an adaptation of a short story I would like to act in and adapt and maybe work with a different director. And I have an idea for a web series based on the medical profession.
AKT: Did you get a chance to talk to the other finalists? Did you see their films beforehand or at the festival with the audience?
ED: I saw them at the festival and thought, wow, they are amazing. It was fun to watch it from a director's perspective. The shots they had and the story. I liked all of them and that they were all so vastly different.
Eve Danzeisen in The Hardest Part.
AKT: You had a beautiful night.
ED: Beautiful night and we had the supermoon. It was so exciting that it was almost hard to fully enjoy it, because it was so enjoyable.
AKT: It all happened very quickly. You told me that you were at last year's Tropfest at Bryant Park [Manhattan]. Was that when you first started thinking about it?
ED: Yes. They announced the theme there and it was bridge. The ideas came to me later. It seemed impossible.
AKT: My last question is about your title. Did that enter the picture early on?
ED: No, I had a million titles - the Sanskrit word for bridge. The Hardest Part just fit because the hardest part is just getting through it. I didn't want it to be too much about one thing in the story, like the office visit, or the doctor. The theme is getting through something, and know that everything will be okay.
ED: Maybe. Exactly. Just for now, just to breathe. I almost called it breath. But it's not just about yoga. The title was actually very difficult. I love that title now.
The Hardest Part, a "story of getting sick, not knowing what's wrong, and then getting better" by touching "on themes of isolation, fear, community, and love" successfully crosses the bridge.